Peer 2 Peer University (P2PU) is a grassroots network of individuals, librarians, and community organizers whose mission is creating equitable alternatives to mainstream higher education. In 2015, the network partnered with the Chicago Public Library to run in-person study groups for library patrons who wanted to learn together. These groups became known as learning circles. Over the next eighteen months, P2PU and the Chicago Public Library dramatically increased completion rates of the courses they offered through learning circles. They were also able to reach fresh audiences who were new to both online learning and postsecondary education. In addition, they discovered that learning circles formed strong social bonds among people with diverse backgrounds who shared common goals and helped to highlight the library as a hub for community learning experiences.
The P2PU website (www.p2pu.org) offers a rich collection of resources for learning circle organizers and facilitators, including a toolkit to prepare and support facilitators, a discussion space where facilitators can share strategies (for recruitment, etc.), and data collection tools. The site also outlines a process for finding a learning circle or coming together to form a learning circle around one of the available online courses. All learning circle materials and community tools are openly licensed and free to use. P2PU also offers training workshops and blended learning support.